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Ospreys vs Leinster Rugby
Liberty Stadium, Swansea, Wales
Friday, 2nd September 2011, 19:05

Television: Live BBC Wales, Highlights RTE2 � 22.30

Leinster kick off their Magners Lea...eh sorry, let's start that again.

Leinster kick off their RaboDirect Pro 12 (quite the mouthful that) campaign against the Ospreys in Swansea on Friday evening.

Obviously with the World Cup starting next week, both teams are missing players. Leinster have fourteen players in the Ireland squad but somewhat surprisingly Ospreys are only missing seven. This is because there's been something of an exodus of Welsh internationals over the summer. James Hook, Lee Byrne and Mike Philips have all gone to France and Craig Mitchell has gone to Exeter.

As well as this, they've lost their All Black backrowers Jerry Colins and Marty Holah. They've still got some quality players like Tommy Bowe, Alun Wyn Jones, Shane Williams and Adam Jones but there's no doubt they've been severely weakened as a squad. They have made some smart signings like George Stowers, Kahn Fotuali'I and Joe Bearman but they're very much shopping in Aldi these days after years of shopping in Harrods.

It will be interesting to see how the Ospreys develop. In truth their all-star teams never really bonded with the local rugby community if you look at the attendance figures over the years. Perhaps with a team made up of more homegrown talent they'll actually appeal more to the locals.

Their coach Scott Johnson has named a pretty strong team especially up front where only Tom Smith and Cai Griffiths haven't been capped by Wales. Griffiths makes up an experienced front row with Duncan Jones and Mefin Davies. Ian Gough and Ian Evans make up a tough second row and Smith is joined in the back row by Jonathan Thomas and Justin Tipuric, who captains the team. Dan Biggar and Rhys Webb are the halfbacks while Andrew Bishop and Ashley Beck are in midfield. The South African born American international Hanno Dirksen is named on the left wing. Kristian Phillips is on the right wing with the experienced Richard Fussell at full back. All things considered, it's a pretty handy team.

Considering he's missing 19 players to injury and the World Cup, Leinster coach Joe Schmidt is still able to name a pretty strong Leinster team as well. Isa Nacewa is back after missing the pre-season matches and he forms an exciting and pacy back three with Fionn Carr and David Kearney. With midfield resources stretched Luke Fitzgerald is moved to centre where he'll partner Eoin O'Malley. There are two debutants at half-back with Mat Berquist and John Cooney named there. Both have looked sharp in pre-season and will look to hit the ground running.

There is a lot of experience in the front row with Heinke van der Merwe and Richardt Strauss named alongside new signing Jamie Hagan. Former Connacht player Damian Browne makes his Leinster debut in the second row alongside Devin Toner. There's also a strong back row in Kevin McLaughlin, Dominic Ryan and Rhys Ruddock. Ruddock has been in excellent form in preseason and he'll hope to continue in that vein. There's a young bench named where Jack O'Connell and Leo Auva'a will be looking to make their debuts.

Leinster lost this fixture last season, largely due to the incompetent performance of an Irish referee. Ominously there's another Irish ref, Peter Fitzgibbon, on duty tomorrow evening. With that in mind, getting a win will be tough but hopefully Leinster will have enough firepower in the backline to eke out a win and get the season off to a good start.

Team Lineups


Leinster Rugby
Teams Richard Fussell 15 Isa Nacewa
Kristian Phillips 14 Fionn Carr
Andrew Bishop 13 Eoin O'Malley
Ashley Beck 12 Luke Fitzgerald
Hanno Dirksen 11 David Kearney
Dan Biggar 10 Mat Berquist
Rhys Webb 9 John Cooney

Duncan Jones 1 Heinke van der Merwe
Mefin Davies 2 Richardt Strauss
Cai Griffiths 3 Jamie Hagan
Ian Gough 4 Damian Browne
Ian Evans 5 Devin Toner
Tom Smith 6 Kevin McLaughlin
Justin Tipuric (C) 7 Dominic Ryan
Jonathan Thomas 8 Rhys Ruddock (C)

Replacements Matthew Dwyer 16 Aaron Dundon
Ken Dowding 17 Jack McGrath
Joe Rees 18 Jack O'Connell
James King 19 Mark Flanagan
Morgan Allen 20 Leo Auva'a
Tom Isaacs 21 Cillian Willis
Matthew Morgan 22 Ian Madigan
Sonny Parker 23 Brendan Macken

Not Considered
due to Injury
Eli Walker,
Scott Baldwin,
Aaron Jarvis,
Craig Cross,
Tom Prydie,
Gareth Owen,
Nikki Walker,
Richard Hibbard,
Ross Jones,
James Goode,
Joe Bearman

Steven Sykes,
Andrew Conway,
Eamonn Sheridan,
Shane Horgan,
Simon Shawe

Referee: Peter Fitzgibbon (IRFU),
Assistant Referees: Gwyn Morris, Jon Mason (both WRU),
TMO: Neill Ballard (WRU)

by Jim O'Connor, © 2011-09-01